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5 Easy Eye-Saving Tips for Writers and Editors

pair of black glasses in front of computer screen, with bookshelves behind the computer screen

I had my annual eye exam a few weeks ago, and I was surprised and relieved to hear that my eyesight hadn’t gotten worse in the past year. When I first got out of college and began editing full time, my eyesight kept getting worse each year and I had eye strain. I was on my computer for a minimum of eight hours a day, editing for most of that time, and I didn’t know how to take care of my eyes while working on a computer all day.

Thankfully, between my eye doctor’s advice and learning more about ergonomics from Twitter chats and conference presentations, I’ve figured out how to take better care of my eyes.

More than a year into the pandemic, with the increase in screen time and less time outside your home, you might have a similar eye strain problem. (Obviously, go talk to an eye doctor if you’re having eye problems.) But there are a few simple steps you can take to treat your eyes better.

5 Tips for Not Absolutely Destroying Your Eyes

Here are five things I do to keep my eyes feeling OK.

1. Wear blue light-blocking glasses.

This is the most controversial item on the list! A recent study suggested that blue light-blocking glasses don’t improve the symptoms of digital eye strain. That said, anecdotally, my eye doctor suggested I try them in May 2020, and I think they’ve made a difference for me in the past year.

My eye doctor told me to buy some from Amazon rather than try to upsell me an expensive pair from his office. I got my glasses from Amazon, and they’ve held up well for the past 13 months. I wear my blue light glasses any time I’m working on my computer, unless I’m designing a graphic or doing something with colors that requires seeing the colors accurately.

blue light blocking glasses

2. Follow the 20-20-20 rule.

The 20-20-20 rule is simple: Every 20 minutes spent using a screen, you should try to look away at something that is 20 feet away from you for a total of 20 seconds. Bonus points if you rest your eyes for longer than 20 seconds. Taking a #StetWalk, for instance, is a great way to rest your eyes and focus on objects farther away.

I have my desk in view of my window so I can look out across the street every 20–25 minutes. (Additionally, I try to stand up every 25 minutes for a short break, loosely following the Pomodoro method.)

3. Crank up the zoom!

When I edit on my laptop, I zoom in as much as I can while still fitting the whole text on my screen. I put Google Docs at 200% zoom and Microsoft Word at 280% or so. This helps a TON. I can’t believe I used to edit documents set at 100% or even 125% zoom. It’s very helpful to be able to see punctuation marks up close so you’re not squinting and guessing whether something is a comma or a period (or a speck of dust on your screen).

On the flip side, if I’m writing a first draft and want to force myself to produce words rather than edit as I go, I’ll put my Google Doc at 50% zoom so I literally can’t read the words as I type.

4. Use night shift.

Blue light can affect your circadian rhythm and make it harder to fall asleep. I use night shift on my computer and phone so that if I’m working or looking at my devices after sunset, they aren’t bathing my eyes in blue light. I use the Night Shift on my iPhone and f.lux on my computer so that blue light is automatically off and I don’t have to think about it. If you write or edit late at night, using night shift (or wearing those blue light-blocking glasses) might make a difference in your sleep.

5. Get a bigger monitor or screen.

I was truly resistant to working on anything other than my laptop until . . . a few weeks ago. I didn’t want to adjust to using a non-laptop keyboard or spend time setting up another monitor or screen. In fact, I almost gave up when an attempt to set up an external monitor broke my laptop, requiring a complete reset.

But I have been working off an older desktop for a few weeks now, and I LOVE it. After so many years staring down at a laptop for both writing and editorial work, I had forgotten that desktop screens provide clearer, crisper images, and that makes a big difference when you’re staring at words on a screen. Plus, with a bigger monitor, I’m not looking as far down to read the screen, and I can have the screen farther away from me than is possible with a laptop. (More info on optimal viewing angles for computer screens here.)

If you’ve been editing and writing on a laptop and want to do something nice for your eyes, try working with an external monitor or bigger screen once in a while.

When you’re staring at a screen all day, what do you do to keep your eyes healthy? Let me know in the comments!

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